Thank you St. Martin’s!

We are working with 110 parishioners (and growing) who were impacted by flooding. See below to read more about the difference you are making in the lives of our fellow Houstonians affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Updated 9/19/17

Update on St. Martin’s Hurricane Harvey Recovery Efforts

We are #HoustonStrong! Just three weeks after Hurricane Harvey St. Martin’s efforts have included:
• 400 parishioners signed up on Sunday mornings to volunteer
• More than 300 parishioners have gone out to 45 Houston area work sites and homes to help with cleaning and remediation
• Clean-up teams also went to help at homes in Baytown, Katy and Friendswood
• Donations of more than 10,000 items were made to 11 partner agencies, including food, hygiene and baby items, cleaning supplies, etc.
• Nearly 250 parishioners have donated to the Harvey Relief Fund
• Classes and support groups are being offered through the Hope and Healing Center & Institute to help anyone affected
• Work crews were hosted from Gateway Church (Austin) and Church of the Incarnation (Dallas), and two members from St. Mary’s on the Highlands Church (Birmingham, Alabama); more crews are scheduled to arrive from across the country (Atlanta, Georgia, and Greenwich, Connecticut)
Updated 9/19/17

And we’re not finished yet!
Click one of the links below to join a work crew, help with other tasks or make a donation.

• Pull out carpet, flooring and waterlogged sheetrock
• Clear out damaged furniture
• Perform other remediation tasks

• Help with groceries/meals
• Provide supplies for work teams hosted by St. Martin’s
• Offer prayers and notes of encouragement

Make a donation for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Just select “Harvey Relief Fund” from the “Select a fund” drop down menu. Thank you for helping Houston!

Update from the Rector About Hurricane Harvey

September 1, 2017

Dear St. Martin’s Family,

“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age…” (Matthew 28:20)

These last words from the end of Matthew’s Gospel are good ones to cling to as we now begin to see, even more fully, the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey. One trillion gallons of water poured upon our city in the last week; 90 percent of our roads were flooded; and 30 percent of our city was underwater.

Now, the shelters are slowly emptying as people return to their homes – but the work of recovery begins – a recovery that will last for a long, long time.

Yesterday was the first day we could open the Church campus and gather our staff – many of whom live many miles from St. Martin’s – and many of whom were either directly impacted by the hurricane or unable to get to the church because of blocked roads. Once we gathered, we had several meetings of St. Martin’s staff members over a period of six hours – all of them relating to tending not only to our own members and staff, but also mobilizing for St. Martin’s response to the hurricane.

A few quick reminders:

  • This coming Sunday, September 3 we will have only four services – 8 a.m., 9 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. traditional liturgy in The Church with Eucharist; 9:15 a.m. Family Table service in the Old Church. We will not have an 11:15 a.m. Altar service or 6 p.m. worship service. I strongly encourage you to attend one of these services so we can pray together, worship together and share the Cup and Bread of Holy Communion.  (As noted, many of our staff have been impacted by the hurricane, and we felt this streamlined schedule would better enable us to be ready to return to our normal schedule of worship and activities by Tuesday, September 5.)
  • Our offices will be closed on Monday, September 4 for the Labor Day Holiday, but we will return to regular church office hours and schedule of activities (as best we can) beginning Tuesday, September 5.
  • Because the U.S. Postal Service mail has been interrupted, your September edition of The Star will be delayed until mid September. (It is presently at the post office awaiting the return of regular mailing service to our area).  Click here to read the online version of our newsletter. You also can monitor our website and Facebook page, as well as read emailed updates for upcoming events.
  • On Sunday, September 10, we will attempt to – again – host our “Coming Attractions” gatherings to prepare for the program year ahead. Again, I strongly encourage you, and if you have children or teens, to come to these events as our return to the spiritual nourishment offered and planned for the year ahead will be an important part of our recovery.
  • If you have not already done so, please re-read the email I sent out a few days ago – it includes information about:
    • How to let us know if you have needs as a result of the hurricane
    • How to inform us about members who may have a need
    • How we are responding now to the hurricane
    • Our interim and long-term plans for hurricane recovery
    • How you can donate to St. Martin’s through checks made to St. Martin’s and earmarked “Harvey Recovery” or donate online. (You may now also  text “SMEC Harvey” to 73256) Be assured that those gifts will be used only for hurricane recovery initiatives.
    • How we are working with our Bishop and other local churches to respond not only to the need in our area, but also beyond Houston – in Beaumont, Rockport, Corpus Christi and so many other areas impacted by the hurricane
    • Specific information about how you can sign up to help this coming Sunday and other ways you can volunteer
    • Specific requests for donated items. Note: We are only accepting items listed in the previous email. At this time, shelters and other agencies with which we are partnering are not accepting donations other than those listed in my previous email. (No clothes or toys, please.)
  • Please carefully read over this information and what was included in the previous email as it lays the ground work for what will be an important chapter in the life of St. Martin’s for many months to come.

One more important note. As I shared above, and in my last email, we are working closely with other area Episcopal churches to coordinate our efforts – to make sure we are responding in the most effective way we can. Toward that end, I have asked the Rev. R-J Heijmen to be the Clergy Associate for Harvey Relief, and he, along with Cyd Gillette, Director of Outreach, and Ashley Cadis, Director of Urban and International Missions, will be specifically guiding St. Martin’s efforts. If you wish to know how you can help or have questions that have not been answered by the Parish emails, please contact one of them in the following way:

The Rev. R-J Heijmen at 713-985-3839 or email hidden; JavaScript is required
Cyd Gillette at 713-830-4128 or email hidden; JavaScript is required
Ashley Cadis at 713-985-3819 or email hidden; JavaScript is required

The Clergy and I eagerly look forward to being with you and worshiping with you on Sunday. Know you are in our prayers. And remember Jesus’ promise to His apostles, “I am with you always…” He is…He is now…and will be in the days to come. Hold fast to that.


The Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr.

August 29, 2017

Dear St. Martin’s Family,

“O God, make speed to save us.
O Lord, make haste to help us.”

These brief lines from the service of Compline in The Book of Common Prayer have come to my mind again and again in the last few days.

My brothers and sisters, we have just moved through what is being now described as the worst natural disaster in the history of our great State of Texas. Like many of you, Laura and I were planning an end-of the summer Labor Day weekend; but all of that has shifted over the last few days – and without a doubt, whether we were directly impacted by the storm or not – all of our lives, and the life of St. Martin’s, and all the lives of all those in our city, and many in our state, have been changed.

Over the last few days, I have been in touch with most of St. Martin’s staff, with several of you, with our Bishop and with several other rectors from Episcopal Churches in the area. In a historic moment of devastation, we are all looking for answers, and as the good people of St. Martin’s and our Lord’s family, I know you are looking for ways you can help. One mistake we can make in a moment like this is rather than plan carefully, rush to conclusions about what we, or our Church, should be doing. Fortunately, again, after several days of discussions, I think we have a viable plan for at least the near future, and pieces are coming together for what will be months of service both within, and beyond our doors. Let me use the remainder of this space to share with you this plan.

Take care of your own immediate needs and your loved ones.
This, actually, was the counsel of our Bishop, Andy Doyle, to the individual rectors who have now met as a group. His suggestion was to “get your own house in order so you can help others to rebuild their lives.” When most of us fly an airline, you will know the admonition that should oxygen be necessary, place your mask on first, before you help others with theirs. All of us have been called to arms in one way or another over the last week, but some of you will necessarily have needs of body, mind, spirit to tend to – and others will have issues with their own homes, health. There will be months and months to serve through St. Martin’s. For now, if you have immediate health or physical needs, tend to those and then turn with your St. Martin’s family to those in need.

If you are a member of St. Martin’s, and are in need, contact us NOW.
There are more needs in a moment like this than can be listed, but if you are a member of St. Martin’s and have ANY NEED, please contact our Pastoral Care Offices at the following numbers:

St. Martin’s Prayer Line at 713-830-4124
Cyndy Ensign, Funeral Coordinator at 713-985-3808 or email hidden; JavaScript is required
Deb Tisch, Pastoral Care Clergy Assistant at 713-985-3817 or email hidden; JavaScript is required
Emergency Clergy-On-Call Line at 713-621-3040 and press 2 (for emergencies only)

We have already begun a spreadsheet of information on members. While it may be easier for you to contact a specific individual on staff, it will be more helpful to us and enable us to more quickly respond if you contact those above first. Think of this number as your “St. Martin’s 911.” Once your call comes into this number or email, we can put things in the order in which they were received and respond in accordance with the staff and volunteers who are begin assembled even now.

In addition, this Sunday (September 3) we will have a table specifically set up in Bagby Parish Hall if you have personal needs that we can, again, add to this information we are gathering.

As the intake is prepared, we will be able to help guide you to the help you need – and do not hesitate to call for ANY need – if we do not know at the moment how best to help you, we will find out as soon as possible.

Be sure and include all of your contact information so that we can quickly respond.

Let me add, please do not pass on information about other members unless you have personal, first hand, knowledge of their situation. We have already had a few reports of particular members who were said to have lost homes or had major damage, that turned out not to be the case. We will be more productive and better able to respond if we have accurate information, so unless you have personal knowledge of a particular person in need, resist the temptation to pass on information you may have heard second hand. This will, I promise, make our work more effective.

How you can help.
St. Martin’s has always risen to the occasion when needs arise, and the need has never been greater for our great city. Many of you have already asked if we have established a fund for relief efforts. The answer is yes. I have already heard from many people outside of the area, outside of our state, who want to send relief funds. Any donation for this effort should be made out simply to “St. Martin’s Episcopal Church,” and clearly marked, HARVEY RELIEF FUND. Any funds we receive will be strictly limited to Harvey Relief. Beyond donations, there is much you can do.

This morning, I participated in a conference call with the Rev. Barkley Thompson, Dean of Christ Church, Cathedral; the Rev. Stuart Bates, Rector of St. Francis Episcopal Church; the Rev. Clay Lein, Rector of St. John the Divine; the Rev. Josh Condon, Rector of Church of the Holy Spirit; the Rev. Patrick Miller, Rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church; and the Rev. Neil Willard, Rector of Palmer Memorial Church.

We began and ended in prayer – and part of that prayer was that as we turned to the Lord together, He would give us direction, guidance and protection and that He would use us in ways that served His people and honored His name. By the end of the meeting, an initial plan was in the making.

We will coordinate any and all efforts of Harvey Response with the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and these other parishes. Needless to say, our Associate for Outreach Ministries, the Rev. Jonathan Adams, and our Outreach Director, Cyd Gillette, will be crucial in guiding us toward this cooperative response.

Over the next few days, the rectors of these parishes will coordinate how we can best respond given our particular congregations and locations. Once this information is collected (likely as early as this weekend) I will share an additional update as to how St. Martin’s will play a role immediately and again, for months to come.

Several of you have asked me whether or not we will open St. Martin’s as a shelter. While we are not prepared today to shelter evacuees, we are working closely with the city and other outreach agencies to provide a list of shelters in the area. In addition, it is very likely that our St. Martin’s Activity Center will be opened for some form of day care for those in need, and will serve as an outpost (and overnight shelter) for individuals coming from outside of Houston to serve as mission teams. I have already heard from The Church of The Incarnation in Dallas and St. Martin’s good friend Max Lucado that they are ready to send teams to our doors to help us in our outreach efforts.

This Sunday, we will have several “sign up” tables at our services. This will include opportunities for you to personally volunteer as:
• Those who can coordinate with us to work at local shelters, including the George R. Brown Convention Center and other local shelters.
• Those who would be able to help our members in need, i.e., moving furniture and personal belongings in homes that have been impacted, assisting with transportation, reaching out to those in any kind of physical distress, helping to clean homes impacted by Harvey, etc.
• Those who are able to coordinate with our long-time partners in ministry to the Community, including The Beacon, Christian Community Service Center, Lord of the Streets, etc.
• Those who may be able to assist in finding temporary housing for all demographic groups who may be displaced.
• Those who would be willing to help in preparation of food for the needy and also for volunteers coming from out of state and serving through St. Martin’s and the Diocese

We will be collecting “personal items” this Sunday (and in the Sundays that follow) in Bagby Parish Hall. We are not, at present, collecting clothes or sleeping bags – that moment may come – but for now, the request from our Outreach Agencies and Partners is to ONLY bring the following items:

• Cleaning supplies
• Large heavy duty trash bags
• Rubber gloves and working gloves
• Protective masks
• Small containers of hand-sanitizers (without fragrance or additives)
• Sanitizing hand-wipes
• Toothbrushes and toothpaste
• Disposable diapers (all sizes) and baby wipes
• Combs and brushes

Please bring only these items. As other needs arise, we will make additional requests.

What if I want to help right now?
Unfortunately, as of this writing, some of the roads to St. Martin’s are still blocked. So our staff, beyond phone calls and emails, has not been able to gather yet to discuss our coordinated efforts. Once the “intake” of volunteer skills is complete, we will be better prepared to begin calling those of you to service who have volunteered. I suspect we will know that on, or around, Thursday, September 7.

In the meantime, you may wish (as many of you have) to reach out to those in your immediate neighborhood; you may wish to volunteer (if you are able to travel) at the Convention Center downtown, our area’s largest shelter. Again, there will be plenty of opportunities to serve and we will keep you up to date on all the opportunities available to you.

How are the buildings and grounds of St. Martin’s?
Yesterday, Laura and I were able to get to the Church and walk most of the grounds and go through most of the buildings. While we found minor flooding in various places (whether from ground up or roof down), I am pleased to report that St. Martin’s has sustained very minimal damage. We expect most of our staff (those who can travel) to return by Thursday at noon and we will return to a full schedule by Tuesday, September 5, the day after Labor Day.

What about worship services this Sunday?
This Sunday, September 3, we will have our four traditional worship services at 8 a.m., 9 a.m. and 11:15 a.m., as well as the Family Table service at 9:15 a.m. However, we will not have the 11:15 a.m. Altar Service; we encourage those who normally attend the Altar to please come to the 11:15 a.m. traditional service.

Since it is Labor Day weekend, we will not have Sunday School for adults, teens or children. However, Bagby Parish Hall will be open from 7:30 a.m. through 12:30 p.m. providing a place for coffee, light breakfast items, and conversation and support.

A few other practical matters…
Having lived through a number of tropical storms and hurricanes now, may I offer just a few practical suggestions?

• The flood waters are still high. Be on your guard for snakes and contaminated water.
• Beware of driving on ANY flooded roads, particularly off-ramps and intersections where many flood fatalities occur.
• Beware of the possibility of mold and mildew in your homes and in homes where you may be offering assistance. We all know that often once the flood waters recede, dangerous mold and mildew grow, much of which is invisible to the eye. When possible, wear masks; when the mold and mildew is excessive, leave the repair work to the professionals; do not risk your health.
• As you walk your neighborhoods, be very wary of the potential for falling debris, limbs or trees. Saturated ground often leads to collapsing trees, and having personally experienced the deaths of members and friends in this horrific way, I can assure you it is a very real concern.
• Beware of predatory contractors. Very soon, our city will likely be inundated by those who are earnestly providing the skills and equipment for repairs we need; but we will also be visited by those who will want to take advantage of our disaster. Make decisions about repairs and work on your home very carefully and seek the counsel of others before contracting with anyone to do this kind of work toward this end. If you need assistance in this regard, our Outreach Department can help vet any contractor with whom you may wish to deal.

And finally, be the Light of Christ you are called to be, pray…pray…pray.
Let me be honest…the long days – months – ahead will test us, and will, at times, call on us in ways we could have never imagined. As members of St. Martin’s, we now have an opportunity to be the Light of Christ – to our family and friends, to our fellow Church members and neighbors, to strangers and those in desperate need.

Jesus reminded His followers that they were “the light of the world.” (Matthew 5;14) As the darkness of Hurricane Harvey is unveiled around us, the Lord needs each of us to shine, not only in physical ways of reaching out to others, but in words of kindness, in actions of patience, in compassion and love. Be the Light of Christ you are called to be.

And…pray. Like most of you, I suppose, I have been inundated with calls, texts and emails. I have felt compelled to respond to all of them. There has been much busy work to do at home and now through St. Martin’s.

I confessed to you the other day, I found myself so busy, that I had forgotten to pray. I turned off my phone and computer, and got down on my knees and prayed. I prayed for the members of St. Martin’s, the people of Houston and all those who were in any way impacted by the hurricane, and I prayed for my family and loved ones. I also prayed, as the clergy who gathered by phone today did, for guidance and wisdom as your Rector, priest and fellow partner in ministry. I was reminded of a great old quip of Martin Luther, “I have so much business, I cannot get on without giving a portion of my day to prayer.”

Don’t let your service take place without God Almighty at the head of the table. Keep praying to Him, for others, and for the calls that will now be placed upon you.

You may, my brothers and sisters, be tempted to despair. You may see the overwhelming need of our city and state and not know where to begin. You may wonder, as I have, how we will be the Children of God in the face of such a time of great need. We will find those answers together – as we worship together, pray together and serve together. God will be with us and carry us to the other side. Hold fast to that.

The Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr.

A Prayer in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey

Almighty God, the King Eternal, Whose Light Divides the Day from the Night, and in Whose mighty hands all creation exists, be with us now in the hour of our need. As the winds and waters of Hurricane Harvey subside, be made known to us. Calm our fears, strengthen our bodies, give peace to our minds, give hope and Your presence to our hearts and souls. Protect us from anxiety, confusion and despair, and give us instead Your Holy Spirit that we may truly be the Light of Christ to those You send our way. As we rest, may we do so deeply; as we serve, may we do so heartily; as we pray – may we listen to Your voice that we may know and do Your will. This we ask in the name of Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Indeed, O God, make speed to save us, O Lord, make haste to help us. Amen.